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Tribute to Charles “Chuck” Feeney (April 1931 - October 2023)

Inyathelo remembers with immense gratitude the multiple contributions of Charles Francis Feeney, an American businessman and philanthropist who established The Atlantic Philanthropies in 1982.

This foundation was Inyathelo’s first substantial seed funder, providing a challenge grant and establishing the bedrock for a home for civil society organisations, the Inyathelo Civil Society Resource Hub. The Atlantic Philanthropies continued to partner with Inyathelo for over 15 years, funding various initiatives including the Human Rights Nonprofit strengthening programme.

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The hub, in Woodstock, Cape Town, believed to be the first such facility in Africa when it was established, was made possible by The Atlantic Philanthropies, and Inyathelo’s own resources. The Atlantic Philanthropies office also donated a private collection of photographs that line the walls of the hub. Since its official opening in 2015, the hub has been a professional, energetic and inclusive space that is an extremely valuable asset for the sector.

Charles “Chuck” Feeney made his fortune as a co-founder of Duty Free Shoppers Group. The Atlantic Philanthropies was one of the largest private charitable foundations in the world, and Mr Feeney donated $8-billion in his lifetime.

Mr Feeney revolutionised the idea of philanthropy by challenging governments and public institutions to match the grants his foundation pledged, in order to access the funds. He also challenged other wealthy people to become philanthropists and in so doing generated an increase in giving. He transferred his fortune into his Foundation and invited others to follow suit with his commitment to ‘giving while living’ and became the inspiration for ‘The Giving Pledge’ publicised by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

After the advent of democracy in South Africa, the Foundation supported many key organisations that paved the way for millions of people to access land, water, life-saving medicine, education and the right to a life of dignity. There were multiple strategic investments in sectors such as nursing and medical care, human and socio-economic rights for vulnerable and poor citizens, and tertiary education.

The grants were noted not only for their strategic focus, but also for their lack of red tape. Foundation grantmakers knew that people on the ground were best placed to spend the resources they needed to meet their objectives.

By 2014, Mr Feeney had invested approximately $350 million dollars in South Africa.

Inyathelo was privileged to award Mr Feeney its 2014 Inyathelo Lifetime Philanthropy Award for Giving While Living.

At a ceremony to mark this recognition, it was noted that The Atlantic Philanthropies had provided “probably the most substantial and sustained investment in the development of human rights organisations in post-apartheid South Africa to date.”

Watch Secret Billionaire: The Chuck Feeney Story - YouTube




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